The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Holly Byrnes On Bullying And ANTM

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 3, 2008

The repercussions of Demelza Reveley’s Australia’s Next Top Model win are still rumbling, with the controversial result now hitting the opinion pages. Holly Byrnes in the Daily Telegraph offers the following compelling thoughts:

The orchestrated publicity campaign to canonise Demelza as the patron saint of the set-upon plus-sizes would have been convincing if it weren’t so obvious to anyone with a millimetre of experience in fashion that she was not too big for the business but rather turned down because of her inflated sense of entitlement at any cost.

And that’s the most galling part of Demelza’s win: How this obnoxious bully prospered.

The spin doctors win again and the rag trade takes another hit as the domain for petulant princesses.

Producers can try to distance themselves from endorsing the woeful example Demelza set for the show’s impressionable young audience.

The viewers decide, of course. But her future was in their hands.

It was in the editing suite, when producers chose to let the “reality” of Demelza monstering her fellow contestant Alamela Rowan to the point of breakdown.

This was not just teen teasing, it was physical and dangerous viewing.

I received ANTM preview discs for work – which a year ago would’ve been tantamount to having Christmas every week – and found it very hard to stay emotionally involved in the show once I had watched the bullying episode; plenty of formerly faithful fans of the show shared my opinion, with many refusing to watch the rest of the Cycle and some writing strongly-worded letters to Fox8 management.

No doubt there will be a reverse-backlash within the next week or so as people start to argue that Demelza is copping “too much” criticism for her behaviour, but as someone once sagely said, when you put yourself in the public arena, you put yourself in the public arena. Perhaps her infamy is massaged by editing and spin, but Demelza will have to put up with her reputation following her if for no reason other than the fact that she chose to bully Alamela in the first place; arguments about selective editing are simple and dangerous semantics.

As Byrne continues:

But the weeks of traumatising Alamela for TV ratings ultimately went to air, instead of being pulled – as Demelza should have been – from the contest.

Rowan’s father Peter has since claimed that his daughter, also of high school age, was “gagged” by producers in the fallout from the scandal, while Demelza was trotted out on a current affairs show to offer her sincere apology.

Not one accepted by Alamela, it must be noted, who left Foxtel’s studios soon after the decision on Tuesday night in tears.

[…]

Beauty pageant aside, the founder of School Angels, an anti-bully campaign, Andrew Stoop sees a seriously ugly future beyond this contest.

“Next time we are left wondering why kids are assaulting kids, maybe we should remember that we are creating them with attitudes like this,” he wrote.

“We have a terrible youth culture developing in Australia of kids hurting kids and this girl winning has reinforced that it’s not only OK to bully, but you will be a winner in the end if you do.”

It will be interesting to see how Fox8 reacts (if at all) to the monster they have created by neglecting to take a stand against bullying.

Because after all, “poor” Demelza might have to put up with some probing questions from the press over the next few weeks, but it’s Alamela who has to live with the effects of having been at the receiving end of Demelza’s bullying. And as anyone (myself included) who has ever been bullied will realise, that lasts a lot longer than 15 minutes.

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One Response to “Holly Byrnes On Bullying And ANTM

  1. Sharon said

    I was trying to send a message to holly Bynes and Holly Sinbox to tell them how much I enjoy their show What I Like About You. But to no avail. I hope this gets to them. As you can tell I am computer ??????. I have a 17 yr old son who introduced me to the show. I have summers off and never really watch shows like that during my season of work. Its inspiring to watch a show like that. I wish I had that growing up. Hope the show continues. You will change alot of life choices. Thanks for what you do.

    Sharon 🙂

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